[Westminster, UK] A group of 200 cross-party MPs and former MPs have signed the Divest Parliament Pledge, which calls on the MP’s Pension Fund to review and phase out investments in fossil fuel companies . The call follows growing concern among Parliamentarians about the environmental, social and financial risks posed by climate change.
The announcement comes as world leaders meet in Katowice, Poland, for the UN Conference of Parties (COP) to begin discussions about increasing emissions reductions in light of the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees . The report warns that there are only 12 years left to make sure warming stays below this level, and urges a rapid move away from fossil fuels.
Lord Deben, former Conservative MP and Chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change, said: “Preventing disastrous climate change will be the defining challenge of the next decade for world leaders. The UK must show leadership by demonstrating that we are prepared to make the necessary choices. This includes moving investment out of fossil fuels and towards renewables that are already proving that they can be built at the scale needed to power our homes and businesses. Moving quickly towards the Paris goals is the best way to protect our health and our prosperity for many generations to come.”
In December 2017, Jeremy Corbyn became the 100th MP to back Divest Parliament  and in the last year has been joined by a growing number of cross-party MPs including Conservatives Justine Greening, Sir Oliver Letwin, and Lord Deben. 29 out of 35 SNP MPs, including Mhairi Black, have also signed the pledge, alongside 11 out of 12 Liberal Democrat MPs, including Party Leader Sir Vince Cable and Deputy Leader Jo Swinson.
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: “During COP24, world leaders must outline urgent emissions reduction strategies to contain warming below 1.5 degrees. These strategies will necessitate a rapid and just transition away from a fossil fuel dependent economy, towards renewables – which already power millions of homes and businesses throughout the UK. This transition requires scaling up of investment and I am encouraged that 200 of my colleagues, from across the political spectrum, agree that we should invest the MPs Pension Fund in this greener and brighter future.”
Mhairi Black, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, said: “Today’s young generation, and their children and grandchildren, will face devastating weather impacts, if we don’t take action now. This means a rapid phasing out of fossil fuels and investing in a progressive and just transition to a zero-carbon economy.”
Jo Swinson, MP for East Dunbartonshire, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I am pleased to join MPs from across the political spectrum in supporting the Divest Parliament pledge and calling on the Trustees of the Parliamentary Pension Fund to move their investments away from carbon-intensive industries. In his speech [yesterday] at the UN Climate Conference, Sir David Attenborough was right when he said that humanity is facing its greatest threat in thousands of years. The dangers of climate change are urgent: for people in some parts of the world, it can already be a matter of life and death. All of us in the UK must do our bit to help cut carbon emissions and ensure we meet our targets in the Paris Agreement. This is bigger than politics: the future of our planet depends upon it.”
The campaign was started in 2014 by a small group of MPs, including the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. Their first success was to pressure the trustees of the MPs Pension Fund to disclose its investments, revealing that the largest individual holding is in BP PLC [4,5]. On average, fossil fuel companies dedicate only 1% of their spending to clean energy projects .
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion,who first established the campaign, said: “We’re now a 200 strong cohort of cross-party MPs who believe it is morally indefensible for Parliamentarians to be investing in companies which profit from wrecking our planet. MPs have a duty to take action to prevent the worst of climate change. One simple step we can take is ditching our investments in fossil fuels – and instead invest in clean, renewable energy, and low-carbon technologies”.
Tytus Murphy, a campaigner with 350.org, said: “The IPCC report is unequivocal: the vast majority of fossil fuels must stay in the ground to contain warming below 1.5 degrees. Cross-party MPs backing Divest Parliament acknowledge that it is unacceptable for political leaders to be heavily investing in fossil fuels at a time of climate breakdown. Constituents all over the UK are bringing the demands for a world powered by clean energy to the top of the political agenda – where it firmly belongs.”
If successful, the campaign would see Parliament joining the Irish National Infrastructure Fund, the New York State Pension fund, local authorities such as Waltham Forest and Southwark and two thirds of UK universities in committing to fossil fuel divestment .
 Pledge text available here and full list of supportive MPs available here. The campaign asks the Pension Fund to ‘quantify, review and disclose its investments in carbon-intensive industries, engage in a dialogue with fund members and publicly commit to phasing out fossil fuel investments over an appropriate time-scale.’
 The IPCC report outlined that emissions must be reduced at a much quicker rate. Cuts of at least 45% are required by 2030 to stay below 1.5 degrees – compared with a 20% cut under the 2 degree pathway – and must come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2 degrees. This requires rapid shifts away from fossil fuels and massive scaling up of investment in renewables, coverage in The Guardian.
 In March 2017, it was revealed that the MPs Pension Fund invests in fossil fuels, tobacco and tax avoiders, coverage in The Independent.
 Annual report of the MPs Pension Fund is available here. Individual investments: BP PLC (£7.33 million), Royal Dutch Shell A (£3.67 million), Rio Tinto (£3.67 million), Royal Dutch Shell B (£2.93 million) and Total SA (£2.93 million).
 A recent report by Carbon Disclosure Project revealed that on average, fossil fuel companies allocate just 1.3 per cent of their total 2018 capital expenditure to green energy projects, coverage in The Financial Times.
 To date, over 900 institutions across the globe – representing funds worth over $7 trillion – have made some form of divestment commitment. Full list of commitments available here.